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ND Volleyball: Brown guides team through tournament

Meaghan Veselik | Friday, September 17, 2010

Blocking and defending has been Notre Dame’s focus in practice this week, as the defense looks to set the tone for this weekend’s Notre Dame Invitational.  The Irish hope to continue the success they have shown in recent tournaments on the road as they return to their home court to welcome No. 20 Dayton, Delaware and Santa Clara.

This weekend marks the fourth consecutive three-day tournament the Irish have competed in, a tough schedule for any team. But they have been working it to their advantage.

“The opportunity to play three matches each weekend is really important for us, and it helps us work out the bugs that we see and just form the lineup that we need and get the team playing together,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “It’s difficult to play physically, back-to-back-to-back like that, but I feel it’s really good preparation for us.”

Last weekend, Notre Dame (7-2) swept all three of their matches at Denver’s Pioneer Invitational, the first three-match invite sweep the Irish have had since 2005. While the goal for every tournament is to achieve that same outcome, Brown is making sure not to push her team too hard before the next string of matches.

“I think it’s one of the things that the team knows what to expect, and they’re used to it. In practice we have to be careful and be aware of how much we’re jumping and swinging.”

Brown added that part of Notre Dame’s awareness and preparation included watching a lot of film, talking over plays, working through changes and being creative in the coaching.

An integral factor in the preparation has not been in the Irish offense, an area where they have been successful all season, but in the defense and blocking after they have served.

“We haven’t been focusing as much on the serving and passing this week because we knew that we really need to pick up the blocking and defense in this kind of event,” Brown said.

The Irish have been averaging 2.67 blocks per set and 11.66 digs per set. In addition, they have been working to recognize the offensive patterns of their opponents and responding accordingly, a challenge they will face repeatedly this weekend.

Returning to their home court is a welcome change for the Irish, who have not competed at the Purcell Pavilion since Aug. 29. Brown said her squad is looking forward to this weekend’s matches as well as opening the conference season at home next week.

The Irish will open the Notre Dame Invitational against Delaware (7-3) on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Purcell Pavilion. The tournament will continue Saturday against Santa Clara (7-3) and Sunday when they face No. 20 Dayton (6-3).